Email has been a constant in the business world since we dropped pens and paper in favor of a mouse and keyboard. Fax machines might still be plugged in, but they’re used for the latest spam travel deals and business financing scams. Email is where business happens. Even as tools in the workplace have cropped up to “reduce the number of emails” in your life, all they do is create more back and forth without solving how we communicate and how it affects productivity.
Email has been the backbone of business because it uses open technology, allowing you to communicate with anyone in the world regardless of their platform (Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Yahoo, or even a self-built server). While email volume has increased, the same methods used in the workplace to manage your email haven’t evolved quite as much. By rethinking how your team uses email, you can turn email from something everyone dreads using into a powerhouse of productivity.
Best Practices for Email Management at Work
Changing email from a time waster to something that helps your team accomplish your organizational goals takes discipline and a clear understanding from everyone on your team to make it happen. Because email is collaborative, everyone in your organization must abide by the same rules to help increase efficiency and productivity. Envision email as a circle. If everyone on your team follows the path, the circle keeps going unless someone diverts from the path, and then the circle breaks.
Dedicate Shared Inbox for Group Emails
In email systems like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, they allow for group inboxes so an entire team can receive an email. An example of implementing this strategy would be to create an accounting inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) that goes to anyone who needs to see those emails. Instead of emails being forwarded around to your entire team to see who needs to handle the question, when an email shows up, if it’s not for you, you can immediately archive it.
Don’t Keep Your Email App Open All The Time
If you need to spend some time working on a report, creative brief, or presentation, don’t feel guilty about closing your Inbox. You should be scheduling time to check email instead of leaving your Inbox open all day. Unless your job requires you to be monitoring email the entire workday, treat email like you would voicemail. Focus on the work you need to accomplish that day and periodically open your inbox for a preset amount of time. You could schedule a half-hour in the morning and in the afternoon to respond to urgent emails, but for the ones that require additional time to work through, schedule time to work on those tasks. If you need a way to merge your tasks and emails, check out our best productivity apps for Android and recommended productivity apps for iOS.
Having your email be something you check periodically instead of constantly is a company culture shift which is why we said in the beginning that everyone in your company must be brought into this mindset.
A by-product of email being something you check periodically is that you can spend time crafting detailed responses to your incoming messages. By taking the time to answer all the questions asked of you, you can minimize the back and forth nature that often occurs with email. Everything sent should have a clear understanding of expected outcomes, deadlines, and responsibilities.
Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists
Email newsletters are increasingly a popular means of brand communication strategy, but they can often be a huge waste of time. Try to limit the number of newsletters you receive so you can keep your inbox focused on items with available next actions. If you like getting them, try something like Spike’s Priority Inbox to automatically categorize less important emails into a separate “Other Inbox” bucket.
Folders, Labels, and Tags Are Your Friend
Many popular email apps let you organize messages in folders, labels, and tags. Using this technology can keep your inbox clean while letting you organize important messages in other ways. It’s best to use a system that lets you manage your messages the way you prefer so you can easily find essential messages in the future.
Share Across Your Team: Email Templates and Message Templates
If your email app supports message templates, you can create canned responses for frequently sent emails. If you work in customer service, you likely ask the same questions over and over again. By sharing your templates with your team, everyone will see increased efficiency as they can copy and paste messages vs. retyping the same response over and over again.
Encourage Usage of Rules and Automation
Many email hosts will let you configure rules and automation so messages can automatically be tagged and organized before they hit your inbox. If you always add the tag “Amazon” to Amazon receipts, you can set up a filter to automatically tag anything with Amazon in the subject as Amazon and archive it immediately. Setting up these rules will save you time and focus as technology is automatically working in the background, so you don’t have to manually apply those tags.
You can set up these rules and automations by logging into the web interface of your email system. It’s recommended to apply these rules at the server level instead of using rules in your email app so they can be applied to all of your devices.
Use an Email App
If you’re still using the web interface to your email or even the default email client built into your device, you might not know that there is a whole world of new email apps available for you to use. Spike is a popular email app for Mac, iOS, Android, and PC because it streamlines email from something that is archaic and slow to a chat-like interface that makes email faster to read so you can process your Inbox and get back to work.
Take Your Email Game to The Next Level
By implementing the strategies we’ve outlined in this article, you can increase your efficiency and productivity as a team while becoming less stressed. Email is a great tool, but teams cannot use it in the same way they did when they received much fewer emails in a day. Use email for all its benefits, but eliminate the distractions from your inbox.